By Ali Shuaib / Reuters
TRIPOLI: Nine northern African countries including Libya, Algeria and Egypt agreed on Monday to work together to secure their borders in a move to clamp down on militia clashes and weapons smuggling in the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings.
Under the Tripoli Plan, countries will adopt stronger measures including sharing intelligence and pouring more money into border towns.
“Security alone is not enough in keeping our borders safe,” Libyan Prime Minister Abdurrahim El-Keib said at a conference of interior ministers in Tripoli on Monday. “We must develop and increase the resources of towns near the borders.”
While most of the plan’s points have yet to be implemented, it is the first time North African interior ministers have met to discuss border security since the beginning of the Libyan war last year.
Repeated clashes in poorly-policed border zones have pushed the issue up the political agenda in recent months.
Egyptian media have reported a rise in arms smuggling across the Libyan border since the uprising against Moammar Qaddafi.
The failure of Libya’s government to keep order at the main Tunisian border crossing that leads to Tripoli has also emerged as a challenge for the National Transitional Council that took over after Qaddafi’s overthrow and killing last year.
In December, clashes between Tunisian security forces and a rogue Libyan militia forced Tunisia to close two border crossings with its neighbor. It re-opened them two weeks later.
Further west, Tuaregs seeking to create an independent state in Mali’s northern desert have clashed with Algerian troops. Malian rebels seized a strategic Algerian border town in early February, giving the rebels control of transit and smuggling points in the desert.
Africans fleeing war and famine in countries further south have also used porous borders to make their way illegally to European Union countries such as Italy and Greece. Once deported from Europe, many come back over the Mediterranean to Libya.
Keib said that North African countries had asked the European Union for assistance in implementing the Tripoli Plan.
“We have made it clear to Europe that we will not be a landfill for those that the Europeans throw out,” Keib told reporters on Monday.